A three-time world champion and scorer of over 1,000 career goals, Pele is one of the most prolific and successful players football has ever seen.
Yet for all his many triumphs and precise, perfect finishes, the most memorable moments of the great man’s 1970 FIFA World Cup™ campaign – arguably his and Brazil’s finest – were misses. The first, of course, was an audacious effort from inside his own half against Czechoslovakia that, while well executed, dropped narrowly wide of the right-hand post.
The second, captured so brilliantly in this image, came in Brazil’s semi-final meeting with Uruguay. Showcasing a move that would come to be known as the ‘Pele runaround’, the Seleção No10 charged through on to an incisive diagonal pass from Tostao and looked up to see goalkeeper Ladislao Mazurkiewicz racing from his goal. Pele reached the ball first but, rather than attempting to round him or poke a shot into the net with the angle narrowing, he allowed the ball to drift to Mazurkiewicz’s left before darting the other way and circling the befuddled keeper.
It was ingenious tactic and yet Brazil’s No10 could not quite complete his masterpiece, with a right-foot shot on the stretch slipping agonisingly wide of the far post. “Like the long-range effort against Czechoslovakia, it would have been so much more beautiful had it gone in,” Pele wrote in his autobiography. “I sometimes dream about both hitting the net.”
All the same, O Rei’s marvellous misses captured the imagination of the watching world, and remain an indelible part of his and this tournament’s legend.